What You Need to Know About Marketing Personas


Wouldn’t it be amazing if all customers were like Flat Stanley? One-dimensional and fit into a one-size fits all envelope?

But the reality is customers are multidimensional, each requiring different needs. A one-size fits all marketing approach will fall flat (no offense, Stanley). As a brand, you need to be able to understand your customers’ wants and needs. To do that effectively, you need marketing personas.

What Are Marketing Personas

Marketing personas (or buyer personas) are fictional, generalized characters that help you understand your customers better. Each persona has a name and a picture, plus demographic details like gender, age, marital status, education, hobbies, work experience, etc.

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Fully-fleshed personas also include goals, challenges, and shopping patterns.

For example, Jessica is a 32-year-old writer, married with two kids, who values a flexible work schedule. How would you classify Jessica? If you said Millennial mom, ding ding! You are correct, and have just created a “Millennial Mom Persona.”

Why You Need Them

Personas offer an understanding of why a customer needs your product and how they’re using it. They also help you identify pain points that your product can alleviate.

Let’s say your company sells stackable washers and dryers. You offer a specific product, so you don’t want to waste your time advertising to a broad audience. Here, you need to create a persona to identify the ideal customer to market your product to.

In this case, your persona is a person who lives in an apartment or condo where space is tight. That’s just scraping the surface. Delve deeper and you get more specific: age 25-35, single, college grad, young professional, lives in the city, income $40-$50,000, etc.

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Developing personas can help you avoid wasted time, resources, and money. Unfortunately, JCPenney learned the hard way, when they experienced a content persona failure. Years ago, CEO Ron Johnson rebranded JCPenney without consulting the customer.

After ditching coupons in favor of new everyday low prices, JCPenney crashed, losing $1 billion within just a year. And years later, they still haven’t recovered.

Why You Need Negative Personas, Too   

Obviously you want to craft your ideal persona, the friendly-customer who plans to purchase all of your products. However, they’re not the only persona you need to worry about.

You need to be able to recognize and avoid the customer who’s more pain than they’re worth, or the one who has no intention of purchasing. These are called negative personas, which are the opposite of buyer personas.

Once you’ve crafted your negative personas, distribute them to your sales team. When sales spots a red flag, they’ll know they’re dealing with a negative persona and can abort.

How to Research Your Personas

You want to uncover as many relevant details as possible to create an accurate representation of your ideal customer (and who you want to avoid, too). Here are some ways to research your personas.

Capture Data With Forms. Use a form fill on your website to capture data such as age, gender, zip code, buying habits, etc. Tailor the form to gather the data you need.

Ask Your Sales Team. Your sales team deals intimately with customers. Pick their brains to find out customer feedback and interactions.

Interview Your Customers. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, always try to get feedback straight from the source.

Tap Micro-Audiences on LinkedIn. Develop personas and generate leads by tapping into micro-audiences on LinkedIn.

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Create Surveys. Interview current and prospective customers using surveys on your website, sent via email, or shared on social.

Mine Social Media. Pull data about your customers from social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

Use Analytics Tools. Gather audience info by using tools like Google Analytics, Buzzsumo, or  FollowerWonk.

For startups, it can be difficult to create personas when you’re just starting out. However, you can describe your potential customers in as much detail as possible, and validate your assumptions as data is collected.

What Mistakes to Avoid

Once you’ve developed your personas, make sure you don’t commit the following mistakes:

Forgetting to Update. Like makeup trends, personas also can quickly become outdated. Try to dust them off and revisit them every quarter, especially high profile personas such as decision makers.

Fixating on Irrelevant Details. That’s great Emily loves pink fingernail polish and green eyeshadow. But if pink and green aren’t color options for your product, why are they in her persona description? Ditch the irrelevant details and stick to the ones that matter.

Not Sharing. You put a lot of hard work into those personas. Make sure they’re being shared with those who deal with customers (e.g. sales).

By avoiding these mistakes and applying these best practices, you’ll soon have a library of valuable marketing personas for your brand.

Posted by: Melissa Duko

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